Follow the Leaders

Front-line fund-raisers work hard to provide support for the USC Good Neighbors Campaign. For them, it’s all about the community.
By Monika Tjia
Melvin Baron, associate professor of clinical pharmacy.

Since 1993, university employees have pledged almost $5.5 million for local community projects funded through USC Neighborhood Outreach grants, as well as for the United Way.

Front-line fund-raisers, known as campaign leaders, have led the charge, giving Trojans an opportunity to support the local community.

This year, 94 percent of the money was designated to USC Neighborhood Outreach by donors, the largest percentage ever. Contributions by employees, alumni and friends of the university support local community programs in the neighborhoods surrounding the University Park and the Health Sciences campuses.

Work on the month-long campaign held in October begins in September and sometimes goes until late December as leaders go after last-minute donations.

Why do campiagn leaders do it?

“It’s a great opportunity to give back and know that it’s going to something useful,” said Giovanna Carrera, assistant director for undergraduate advisement in USC’s Annenberg School for Communications.

Melvin Baron, associate professor of clinical pharmacy in USC’s School of Pharmacy, has been a leader for several years. He has been on both ends of the campaign, receiving three grants for projects designed to educate the Hispanic community on the need for folic acid, especially in women of child-bearing age.

“We trained women of the community to deliver our health message,” Baron said. “A lot of times, professional health-care givers are intimidating and not easily accepted, and so the message is better received from others in the community.”

Working at HSC for decades has given Baron the opportunity to see how much the campaign has benefited the neighborhood. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the community, and I know how much it appreciates it,” he said. “The type of relationship we’re able to establish between the university and the neighborhood has made it a very successful project.”

After hearing at a campaign leaders’ meeting what other departments on campus did to promote the Good Neighbors Campaign, Carrera will know what to do the next time around.

“It was exciting [to see] how far other departments go to promote it,” she said. “People were really excited about it. It gives you good ideas and helps you get motivated.”

Thanks to the hundreds of employees who have undertaken the role of leader in the past decade, GNC has managed to set new fund-raising records every year. In the first year of the campaign, $151,000 was raised with fewer than 1,000 employees contributing. This year, 3,600 employees gave $763,000.